Lavender Fields Forever

August 31, 2016



In a never ending summer day, put me in a lavender field, especially one that has a yellow door in the middle and I will become Alice – curious, carefree, venturing to drink the bottle, eat the cake, shrink like a telescope and walk through the door in the hope of a fantastic adventure... Put me in a lavender field and the world becomes a sweet tale.
Lavender, brimming with its simple fragrance and pretty purple hue that so many of us love, is in my opinion one of the most enchanting herbs. Thanks to the people of Pine-Sol and Terre Bleu Lavender Farm, who hosted a lovely event about the fragrant industry, this August I've been given a chance of walking through the last flowers of the large fields of lavender. If you wandered onto this resplendent property, you might never know you were just outside of a big hectic city; instead you would rather feel the charming countryside atmosphere of Provence or Tuscany. However, Terre Bleu is the most beautiful organic working family farm in Ontario that grows eight varieties of lavender under the northern climate and produces a range of handmade products – essential oil, soaps, macarons... Certainly, the best place to learn about flavours and fragrances. The best place to enjoy al fresco lunch full of savor and style from the salmon with sorrel sauce, to the lemon tart, lavender ice cream and of course, lavender lemonade. I also explored the distillery where 200 pounds of fresh lavender are broken down to make 500ml of pure essential oil. I met the honeybees that pollinate the lavender plants from which the pure premium lavender honey is extracted. I crossed an enchanting forest only to discover a yellow bench awaiting to hug me... I uncovered myself in the near-finished oil painting of an artist who was working surrounded by sunflowers somewhere in a distance almost unnoticed. 
I was slowly going back to my happy place, one that I have been struggling to find this entire summer. I was gently invited to stop, breath and smell... the roses the lavender... the world...the life... 
I was Alice, "in a Wonderland I lie, Dreaming as the days go by, Dreaming as the summer die." 
And most importantly, I went through the yellow door in the middle of the purple sea assured by the words of the owners' 10-year-old daughter that "when I walk through the door, my worries are behind me, my joys are ahead." 
I believed that little girl.  



August just melted as a purple lavender ice cream. A new season is coming and I am excited. I hope for peacefulness, simple pleasures, sweet tales and happy places for all of us. Our worries behind us, our joys are ahead.





Linden Tree

July 15, 2016


This summer has been a strange one so far – disappointments and unexpected turns have been jumping over celebrations and good moments. Bad news and joyous vibes have been competing for the Olympic title of my life... Due to an unexpected turn of events, our plans for traveling to Europe are being put on hold for an undefined period of time. The unknown is what has been occupying these summer months... and frankly, it has all been mind-numbing. I had felt the discomfort of the unknown many times before, but I thought I had worked really hard to eliminate it and to stay open to uncertainty. Obviously, not hard enough. Somehow, it has hung over me and darkened my thoughts. My mental space has been stocked with worries, yet hopes and prayers for the universe to guide me find wisdom and insights. I've known deep down within me that everything will resolve the way it is supposed to, but the wait! The wait is what has been draining my energy, my focus and my otherwise optimistic, patient self. I wanted for time to hurry and to go fast and yet, when I celebrated my precious son's 18th birthday, I wished for time to stop and wait and go slow...
I was brimming with all that confusion and fragility, when in one moment, it just clicked. A great hardship is never desirable, but that doesn't mean that we can't make use of it; it can provide an extraordinary lesson capable of making us aware of the shallowness of our daily concerns, of the overwhelming pressure of the crazy world we are living in, and above all, of what truly matters in our human progression towards individual inner freedom. At this moment, I promised myself to manage my attention, not my time. To trust the path, to learn from it and to put my faith in action as I tune into what makes me happy, what completely absorbs me and puts me back in my creative centre – photography and writing.
Next, I was browsed in a favorite bookshop of mine, the place of comfort and escape in need of a lift. A little orange book quietly caught my attention. I always trust my instincts when it comes to picking books. As I began to flip through the pages, I read:
  "Welcome
   You have now become an official member of the Wander Society. 
...Society wants us to live a planned existence, following paths that have been traveled by others. Tried and true. The known, the expected, the controlled, the safe.
   The path of the wanderer is not this!
  The path of the wanderer is an experiment with the unknown. To be idle, to play, to daydream. 
...Wandering is not about a specific place or destination, getting from one place to another, or movement as a means to an end.
   Instead, it's about letting the soul and mind roam.
...The wanderer can observe, be present, pay attention, and be open to the unknown – all while remaining still. Entering into a wandering mindset involves partaking in the wandering rituals, turning off technology, breathing deeply, using the senses, tuning in.
...Life is an experiment. To wander is to seek the unexpected.
   Does the act of doing something without purpose challenge you a little?
   Good."
A wave of excitement went through my body. A current of happiness rushed from my heart. I knew, the universe conspired to help me go through the suffering of my mind and be myself again. All I needed to do was to be aware that this precious life will not last forever and that it is essential to make the best possible use of it. I needed one more time to sincerely examine what counts in life for me and simplify my activities, my inner voice and my expectations. 
I read the book in a day and found myself on my daily walk (wandering) with Charlie, this time unplanned, letting him lead me.
Re-charged with curiosity. Exhaling deeply. With ready eyes. Grateful to feel alive.
I made an amazing discovery that day – the streets were blanketed with blooming linden trees and the world was smelling like one. I came home with arms full of branches. I picked the flowers and made myself a tea. I baked a lemon cake glazed with the tea. The aroma filled the air around me. With every sip of the soothing infusion, I felt the presence of my grandma serving me the tea every time I had a fever as a child. I remember her telling me about the magical effect this flower has on healing our bodies. In almost every major hospital in Europe, there were long lines leading to the entrance doors, planted to supply the hospital with linen flowers for infusion that was given to sick patients and soldiers waiting for medical care. I realized, once again, that everything in life is a source of information, that everything in the natural world can be healing, once you stop taking it for granted and let it reveal its magic to you. The only honest way for me to survive this strange summer is to do what my soul thrives on, to participate with my mind in the direct experience of everyday life and to look at the ordinary in a whole new light. I have everything I need "to create a bond with the unknown wilderness I am about to enter into even though it might scare me a little."
I have become a wanderer.
I have arrived.

    The Wanderers are everywhere.




Thank you, dear friends, for reading. I hope you are having a nice and simple summer. My heart is heavy with the world right now, but despite the unbearable pain, I refuse to be afraid. I still believe in the goodness of humanity and that people are fundamentally loving and good.

Prom Photo Session

June 27, 2016


They are young. They are beautiful, smart and funny. Their wings are ready to open. They are excited to fly to new heights, build a new nest, connect with new knowledge, embrace greater accountability, face new love... They are considered, ambitious, open, playful and inclusive. They are confident and full of energy. They do not consume extra effort on something they can achieve with a simple click; love the modern inventions that make life easier. They are contemporary and traditional at the same time. They appreciate their families and value the differences of opinions despite often being critical. They know their goals and try to reach them creatively. They make mistakes, but they aren't hampered as much when it comes to thinking why not to do things.
They are the leaders of tomorrow. 
That is how I see our children – the high school graduates – thanks to my son, his friends, his school, my friends, their children and their schools. And when a couple of weeks ago I was invited for a pre-prom photoshoot, I accepted the job with confidence and assurance that I could successfully convey in the photographs all I love about our young people and their world. And when I gave the photos to them, my only wish was that whatever they do next, I hope they never stop learning, growing, exploring and challenging themselves to be their best and that they never give up all their independent thoughts and their dreams and their passions. I hope no hate, difficulties and setbacks crush their wings and prevent them from taking the stand for the good of the whole. I believe in their courage to rise above the false sense (in adults) of superiority and entitlement as well as in their capability to "make for themselves, for their sake and for ours, extraordinary lives". 





You can see more photos from the session on http://www.sylviasimplelife.com
I finally decided to collect some of my photography work and create a portfolio of sorts. 
Here is a preview:








Thank you all for your continued support. I wish you a beautiful summer.



Pecan Pie – A Taste of the South

April 5, 2016




Pecan Pie is a uniquely American dessert and apparently a holiday menu without it is a sin, especially in the Southern States where the pie is a staple. Some claim that French immigrants to New Orleans created the pecan pie after the Native Americans introduced them to pecans. Who knows? One thing is for certain, the pecan trees are native to the South and fresh pecans as well as pecan pies, pecan pralines and various other pecan delights are widely popular in the region. As you might guess, I made a solid effort to try all these sweet handmade southern treats as we were passing through Louisiana on our road trip from Toronto to New Orleans this March. However, the most memorable experience to me in terms of classic southern desserts would be the slice of that freshly-baked nutty pie perfection I ate on the front porch of Oak Alley Plantation Restaurant after exploring the historic site that lined the banks of the Mississippi River. It also turned out that of all plantations that dot the landscape along Louisiana's famous River Road, one that stands out for its relationships to pecans is non other, but Oak Alley. One of the slaves at the plantation, the gifted, first name-only gardener from New Orleans, Antoine, was the first person to successfully create the first pecan variety with thin shell that could be cracked bare handed. Antoine's improved pecan was named 'centennial' as a honor for winning the Best Pecan Award at the Philadelphia Exposition in 1876. 
We came back home with tins full of Louisiana's favorite nut and books full of wonderful collections of great southern recipes. And I thought that Easter weekend would be the perfect time to bake this simple and delicious pie, this symbol of the Southern heritage, the one that is really loaded with nuts, has a little hint of Praline pecan liqueur and creates such an earthy taste in your mouth which as the author wrote "makes you close your eyes and wish you might live forever in the witness of that rich moment."



Southern Pecan Pie 

Ingredients: 

For the Crust:
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/4 cup ice cold water

Filling:
6 tbsp. (about 90 ml) unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup dark corn syrup
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 cups chopped pecans (plus extras pecan halves to line the top)
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 or 2 tbsp. Pralin Pecan Liqueur or bourbon (optional)
1 tsp. vanilla extract


Directions:


To make the pie dough, combine in a large bowl flour, sugar, and salt. Rub in the butter using your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add enough cold water and stir with a spatula to mix to a firm dough. Use your hands to knead the dough together and pack it into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour. 

On a floured surface flatten dough ball with rolling pin. Roll out into a circle that is one inch larger than the pie dish. Place pie shell into dish, fold overhang edge of pie crust and crimp decoratively. Prick the bottom with a fork and refrigerate until solid. 

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place the pie dish on a cooking sheet and line with a sheet of oiled foil. Fill with pie weights or beans. Baked in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Carefully remove foil and beans and bake for an additional 5 minutes. Let cool a little before filling. 

Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.

To make pie filling, place butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and salt in a saucepan and stir gently until melted. Remove from the heat and and stir in pecans, cider vinegar, vanilla, liqueur. Set the mixture aside to cool a little , about 5 minutes and then whisk in one egg at a time until combined. Pour into the pie shell and bake for 35-40 minutes. If needed, during the last 10 minutes of baking, cover the pie with foil to prevent the top from getting too hard. The pie is done when the crust browns and the centre is slightly firm to touch but still has some jiggle to it. 
Let cool before slicing and serve. 

(Recipe adapted from "At My Grandmother's Table Heartwarming Stories and Cherished Recipe from the South", a book by Faye Porter.) 


Do you like pecan pie?


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